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Insight: Chasing high corn prices, U.S. farmers skip rotations

Sep 25, 2011, 9:20 a.m.
Sweet corn is seen in the field at Chino's family farm in Rancho Santa Fe, California October 5, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Blake

"Before harvest started, we had the lowest amount of corn in storage since 2004," said Mark Heil, general manager of the Prairie Central Co-Op, which has 10 elevators in and around McLean County.

Forty percent of the crop is now used in ethanol production while the rest is used as animal feed or food production here and abroad.

GOOD YEAR FOR CORN FARMERS

Corn prices dipped to a three-month low late last week amid plunging equities markets. However, 2011 is still likely to be one of the most profitable year for farmers, many of whom have already sold half or more of this year's crop.

"Farmers are in as good as financial standing right now as they've been in a considerable time, maybe ever," said Tom Kahle, executive vice president and farm manager at Heartland Bank in Chenoa.

Kahle said many farmers, like corporations, are hoarding cash in these uncertain economic times. Growers are willing to plant corn after corn as long as yields do not decrease much beyond 20 bushels versus corn after soybeans.

Nick Chinowth, who farms 4,500 acres in McLean County, said his corn on corn was yielding about 170 bpa and his corn following soybeans averaged about 190 bpa.

The yields were above what he had expected earlier in the season, as moderate temperatures in August and late-season rain combined for a nice finish to the crop.

"One rain at the right time is what made these crops," Chinowth, 30, said.

His father-in-law, Steve Payne, 60, said it was the best year ever for profits.

"Prices have never been this high and, years ago, we didn't have the yields to go with it," Payne said.

(Reporting by Michael Hirtzer; Editing by David Gregorio and Maureen Bavdek)

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